A San Antonio woman who was duct taped to a seat after a series of incidents aboard an American Airlines flight in 2021 has earned the highest ever FAA sanction for unruly behavior. Heather Wells, 34, is being sued by the agency for a total of $81,950 after an eventful flight from Dallas to Charlotte on July 7, 2021. She’s been assessed $45,000 for violence against crew and passengers, $27,950 for trying to open a cabin door and $9,000 for interfering with the crew. Wells apologized for her behavior in a television interview, blaming it on a mental health episode in which she feared for her life.

The drama began about an hour into the flight when she became agitated in her first class seat. She reportedly ran to the back of the plane and fell on her knees before crawling back and threatening a flight attendant on the way. She then grabbed the handle on one of the front exit doors and when two flight attendants tried to restrain her, she hit one of the FAs in the head repeatedly. After they got plastic cuffs they duct taped her to her seat and taped her mouth to stop her from spitting (this was the height of COVID protocols) but she still wasn’t done. She managed to kick her legs free of the duct tape while pinned to the seat.

The captain elected to continue to Charlotte, where the other passengers were taken off the plane before law enforcement and medical personnel moved in. Wells was sedated before finally being taken off the plane to a hospital. The episode was part of an overall uptick in unruly behavior that prompted the FAA’s Zero Tolerance Policy. The agency says the skies are much calmer these days with a 60 percent reduction in reported in-flight mayhem since 2022.

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